Holiness and the Holy Spirit

Pursuing holiness without regard to the work and approach of the Holy Spirit leads to either legalism or abandoning the effort altogether.

Indeed, this is a big reason why I pursued the field of theology. I had trouble with holiness and I had trouble with those who talked about holiness.

I knew a lot of people who sacrificed to God, offering this or that, going here or there, doing and doing, then getting exhausted or exhausting others.

I didn’t know a lot of people who were efficiently obedient, walking with God in the midst of storms and success.

ColumbaWhen I wrote my first book, It’s a Dance, the publisher of Barclay Press who had accepted my book suggested I add an additional chapter to the book.  The book itself talks about the Holy Spirit and uses elements drawn from the Gibbs and Bolger book Emerging Churches.

What do (or did) those churches emphasize?  Focusing on Jesus, breaking boundaries between sacred and secular, drawing towards community, welcoming strangers, giving to others, participating, creativity, shared leadership, and worship that draws from the past and present for depth of expression.

These are, I argue, works of the Holy Spirit, so the book is about how the Holy Spirit transforms us into being a people in a community who live in these sorts of ways.  It’s not so much a celebration of the (then) emerging churches as much using those cues to talk about elements Scripture emphasizes.

My publisher Dan suggested a new chapter, one not in the list Gibbs and Bolger put together.  Talk about holiness, he said.  For a second, I was wary about adding more to their framework.  But, I quickly realized two things. First, a suggestion by a publisher to a first time author should be taking very seriously. Second, more importantly, he was exactly right.  Holiness is certainly a work of the Holy Spirit.  It’s in the name, after all.

That’s more of a New Testament title, as a matter of fact, but the themes of the Spirit run all through Scripture.  Holiness is obedience to God’s work and life. I almost wrote “conformity” but that’s a naughty word these days, offputting and reminiscent of the worst elements of religion.  Conformity implies uniformity.  Only that’s not what holiness is about.  Holiness in light of God is about being fully alive, fully whole, finding meaning and purpose and focus in the discipline of walking wholly in God’s creative order.

God is holy.  That’s not saying he’s a legalist or a rule-crushed frump.  God is who God is.  What’s your name, Moses asks.  “I am,” God replies. God is who God is, true to himself.

The Spirit of holiness is God, and God’s work in holiness is drawing all people back to the fullness of life as individuals within a community.  How are we truly ourselves in the context of others being truly themselves?  What does it mean to be true to myself and true to God?

That’s the question of holiness. And we can’t attach outside rules or obligations or styles of music or clothing to our answers.  God is holy. To be holy is to be true to God.

What does God care about? What is God doing in our contexts?  How has God made me? Who has God put in my life and where has he called me to be?  41mUtqqOTmL._SX322_BO1,204,203,200_

What would God have me do this day?  Who am I to love? How am I to hope? Where shall I place my faith?  The holy life is a dance of answering these questions.

Why do I bring this all up? Dan, my first publisher, wrote me a couple months ago and asked if I would be interested in a new book they’re publishing.  It’s right up your alley, he said (in so many words).  It’s called the Spirit of Holiness, by Everett L. Cattell.

It’s not a newly written book, published originally in 1963.  It is a newly edited and released book, however, and I’m glad for that.  I never heard of it before, and it’s indeed right up my alley (or “in my wheelhouse” as middle-aged celebrities are saying these days).

As a way of getting back into blogging and as a way of sorting through thoughts about The Spirit and Holiness, I’m going to make my way through this book over the next little while.

This entry was posted in holiness, Holy Spirit. Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to Holiness and the Holy Spirit

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *